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Cutting Straight to The Truth

Cutting Straight to The Truth

Straight talk about hay cuttings.

A percentage of hay purchasers have a preference on cutting. Whether you do or not, let's look at some facts that may change or influence your view of cutting. Cutting with hay refers to the number of times in the growing season that a given crop or field is cut and harvested. The number of cuttings per year varies from 3-10 depending on climate. Farms located in higher elevations typically get 3-4 cuttings while warmer climates allow for nearly year-round farming and can get as many as 10. Cuttings do have a few distinct differences that affect quality. For example, the first cutting will have more weeds or undesirable, unwanted plants than subsequent cuttings due to the "annual" trait of many plants. In other words, once the weed is cut with the first harvest, it will not grow back until the next year. In addition to cutting, here are a few of the other factors that influence hay quality:

  • Maturity of plants at time of harvest
  • Condition/nutrients in the soil
  • Amount and kind of fertilizer
  • Length of days
  • Amount of direct sunlight
  • Temperature during the growing period
  • Insecticides/herbicides
  • Presence or lack of rodents
  • Rain/ weather conditions during the drying period
  • Moisture content at the time of bailing

There are more but the point is there are many.

Arguably, the single most influential element is maturity at the time of harvest. The young and immature plant is packed with nutrients and lacks fiber to the extent that horses can have digestive disruptions such as diarrhea and colic. The older plant lacks essential nutrients and has excess fiber including non-digestible fiber and therefore has diminished value.

So, what does this mean to you and what can you do about it? You can learn to recognize signs of maturity or lack thereof such as stem size, softness, and amount of bloom when evaluating hay. A farmer or experienced dealer is a good resource to learn how to identify maturity.

While the cutting, along with a plethora of other factors, affects quality, maturity is key. It's common to get hung up on cutting and disregard more important considerations. Don't let that be you.

Also with hay, remember the More Better Rule:
"When you find a grouping of hay that works for you and your horse, buy all you can afford and all you have storage for."

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Feed Management Response To Questions

Feed Management
Response To Questions

This month we begin with a common question; “Am I feeding the right kind of hay and am I feeding the right amount?” This question was asked through our Facebook page and our response is below.

People pose this question under a variety of circumstances. For example, when your horse appears under or overweight, perhaps another horse owner chimed in and gave their opinion on what you’re doing and you’re not confident in your feed program, or you read or heard something that has you questioning yourself.

Asking if you’re not sure is a good thing to do rather than not. The answer, however, is more of a math equation rather than a y/n quiz. The following is a real question that was recently asked through our media. We have included it here in hopes that it will help you with your own feed management. Here goes…


"I exercise my horse 4 days a week. 2 days riding in the arena for 3 hours total for two days & Ponie my horse 3 hours total, the other two days. Right now I feed my horse 4 flakes of OAG a day. Is this the correct type of hay? & amount for each day? Thank you ( I have a 20-year-old Bay Gelding Quarter Horse)

Note: The question refers to OAG which is our abbreviation for our orchard grass/alfalfa mix with trace amounts or low alfalfa content.


"In general, orchard/alfalfa mix hay is a good choice for maintenance to moderate activity.

Mixes of all types of forage vary in ratios because of the variables in each field, so un-uniform ratios are a reality that should be taken into consideration.

Flakes of hay are relative and vary greatly with different baler manufacturers and adjustments of the machine, bale weight, maturity of crop at time of harvest, moisture content at baling, and so on.  Hence, weight is a better measurement than "flakes" for rations.

As far as exercise vs ration of forage, most horses consume 1 1/2% to 3% of their body weight per day. For a 1,000lb horse, 15-30 pounds per day. This large range is

due to varying amounts of nutrients per pound of feed, and condition of the horse’s teeth, mastication, digestive health, circulatory health, calories burned, and this just to name a few factors.

If you are concerned about your horse’s feed management, it is best to consult a veterinarian or nutritionist who would examine the horse, possibly run a blood panel, analyze current feed, and make specific recommendations for your horse.

There is a lot you can do to be informed. The American Association of Equine Practitioners has a body condition score that is helpful in determining what is ideal. As you may know, we recommend membership in The Horsemanship Journey as they provide access to the top vets and professionals in the world who

give information on all aspects of horse health. We also recommend a book from one of the guests on The Horsemanship Journey. The book is called "Feed a Horse Like a Horse" by Juliet Getty Ph.D.

While it is not appropriate for us as a feed dealer to make specific recommendations, in general;

1) you know your horse better than anyone and that has much value

2) most horses without underlying problems maintain good health on a high-quality forage, free access to salt and water, and a minimal vitamin supplement

3) overfeeding grains, high starch, and high glycemic feeds is common and harmful

4) feeding a legume and a grass for forage is ideal (such as orchard/alfalfa mixed hay)

5) when you find a forage that works well, buy as much as you can afford and can store (preferably a one-year supply purchased during your region's hay season)

6) when you understand body condition, you can evaluate and adjust the ration accordingly

Horses are considered geriatric when they reach 75% of their life expectancy or 17 years old. The Horsemanship Journey also has several segments on aging horses that will be helpful for your older horse. In one segment, a specialist in older horses recommends keeping them fit and emphasizes slightly underweight is better than overweight. So, it sounds like you are on the right track with regular exercise.

We hope this is helpful information in making good and informed decisions.

We wish you and your horse a healthy 2022!

From the Crew and Staff at Jacob Livestock


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